Caserta Commentary: We Must Continue to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

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With the beautiful weather and our state’s opening of COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone 16 or older, there is a welcome sense of hope that we might finally be turning the corner in this pandemic. Personally, I love hearing about my children’s day actually in their school, coaching youth soccer and taking my wife out to dinner after a year hiatus. Indeed, we must have hope; however, now is not the time to relax from the practices and protections such as social distancing, masking and hand washing, which are proven to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, along with the rising temperatures and numbers of people out in public, we at Providence are seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers of our COVID-19 patients at Providence Centralia and Providence St. Peter hospitals. Through the holidays at the end of 2020 and into 2021, we saw second and third waves of COVID-19 where there were as many as 60 COVID-19 positive patients in our local hospitals. That number started decreasing early this year and as near as a few weeks ago, the average daily number of COVID-19 patients was in the teens.

However, a fourth wave now seems to be upon us. Recently, in late April, we had more than 30 COVID-19 positive patients in our care. I was quoted in the media last year and I will repeat that quote:

“Our staff, they are incredibly dedicated, incredibly hard working and model our mission of Providence every single day,” Caserta said. “Talking to many, many of them, what they would like more than anything else is to see an outpouring of our community members trying to do everything they can to prevent the spread of the virus.”

We ask you to be our partner in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Please, continue to be diligent as we try to reach the finish line of this pandemic: wear your mask, continue to social distance, wash your hands.

And to those who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine – thank you for doing your part. Please continue to encourage others to receive the vaccine as well.

To those who may be considering getting the vaccine, I offer you this: my wife and I are both physicians and we got the vaccine and we recommend you also get vaccinated. Our children also want to be vaccinated and we are hopeful soon the vaccines will be available to children under 16 so they will be able to be protected from COVID-19.  Other important facts to consider are:

• Getting vaccinated can protect you and those around you from getting sick.

• We know how devastating COVID-19 is with more than 32 million cases confirmed in the U.S. and nearly 600,000 reported deaths nationwide. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Waiting too long allows the virus to continue spreading in the community, with new variants emerging.

• Though the COVID-19 vaccine development was fast, it did not skip any safety steps. The speed of the vaccines’ development was due to cutting the red tape and bureaucracy that often slows down medical innovations and not due to cutting corners or bypassing safety precautions. All COVID-19 vaccines were tested in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people to make sure they meet safety standards and protect adults of different ages, races, and ethnicities. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 95 percent effective in preventing severe disease.

• Side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are temporary.The vaccines do not contain live coronavirus, and you cannot and will not get COVID-19 from getting vaccinated. There may be side effects, but they should go away within a few days. Side effects are signs that the vaccine is working to build immunity.

• I understand there are concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  However, hundreds of millions of people worldwide have received two doses of either the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine safely without any significant side effects.

I am blessed to serve as the chief medical officer for Providence in Southwest Washington. Our community has a history of coming together and overcoming. I hope that you will join me in coming together once again to control the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community safe. Personally, I lost a dear friend to COVID-19 and have an uncle still on supplemental oxygen six months after his infection who will likely never fully recover from COVID.  We must continue to do the simple things that we know prevent the spread of the virus: wear your mask, social distance, wash your hands, and please get vaccinated to protect yourself and those you love.  Thank you for caring about our community.

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Dr. Kevin Caserta is the site administrator for Providence Centralia and chief medical officer for Providence in Southwest Washington.

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